Back in August I handicapped Boardwalk Episode season four based on gangster history. I made some predictions, I gave some guarantees. In the opening sequence of “William Wilson,” two of those played out exactly as I saw them in my head. That ain’t me. That’s Boardwalk Empire, it got inside my head. I started watching, fully intending to love it, Boardwalk Empire from the very first Martin Scorsese-directed episode. I wait between episodes watching it three or four times. With the exception of Breaking Bad and The Simpsons, the rest of TV can wait. I should recuse myself from reviewing Boardwalk Empire because I’m only judging it against itself.
“William Wilson” begins with Leopold and Loeb in the headlines and Al Capone on the attack. Capone is taking his brother’s death very hard and his grief looks like it can tear a hole in the middle of Chicago. Al Capone did in fact personally shoot at least one of the cops who mowed down his brother Frank. He did, in history, tell Johnny Torrio that Dino O’Banion had to go and Torrio did actually change his mind after getting reamed by Dean O’Banion. And I mean Harry Reamed. Torrio gets served more than warm beer. O’Banion plays this like he’s Finnegan to Star Trek’s Captain Kirk on “Shore Leave,” an impish grin behind his every hoodwink. Stephen Graham breaks out without breaking down.
Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) is going back to Tampa. It seems that Vincenzo Petrucelli (Vincenzo Amato) slit a throat in New Orleans and heroin poured out of it. Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi) brought Frankie Yale (Joseph Riccobene) all the way from Brooklyn for a taste. I wonder if heroin would have stayed illegal if it didn’t pull in so much scratch on the street. Heroin sells better than the real estate trusts Margaret can’t pawn off on Arnold Rothstein, himself no stranger to what that white powder can buy.
Eric Ladin plays public scumbag number one John Edgar Hoover so well you want to take a baseball bat to his head every time he purses his lips to speak. I expected to hate the character and to love hating the character of the first director of the federal cops, and Laden makes him as utterly loathsome as I always wanted. Not only does he keep hot cakes away from George Remus (Glenn Fleshler), he keeps any semblance of recognition away from Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty) and Ester Randolph (Julianne Nicholson). Having said what I said about Hoover, though, at least he told Remus what everyone’s been yelling at the TV for years. There’s something Draco Malfoy about this Hoover.
Nothing gets by Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham), except when it comes to his son. The ex-sheriff has that ex-cop sense about everything that’s happening in his jurisdiction whether it’s a black eye or a runny nose. Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has something up his nose that he can’t blow into a monogrammed handkerchief. He woke up this morning with the vague notion that something is not quite right. Now, while some men, Gaston Means I’m looking at you, might hit the snooze alarm and roll over, Nucky doesn’t roll over for anything. I don’t gasp often, but I did it twice this episode and the first time was because of Gaston Means. Stephen Root is a joy and a distraction. This is an actor who can milk subtle humor out of any single word and still make it sound offhandedly ominous. After two lines of dialogue I spend the rest of the night doing his voice. His Department of Justice turncoat is so nuanced that his betrayal knocked me on my ass in shock. Shock I tells ya.
The other gasp came from the soul. Chalky’s inner smile is radiating so hard now it’s distracting the faithful. Sister Maitland (Margot Bingham) probably has all the righteous brethren, who know all the verses by heart, clutching their Bibles tight to their laps, but Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams) is her man. The devil is also supposed to be able to spout verses verbatim, Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) sees evil hidden so openly in society, but doesn’t see it what’s in his own hands. But, Chalky says, it sounds congenial enough. There’s something sick in ministering to the illness you create and Dr. Narcisse is the cause and effect of so much of what he warns about. His open condemnation of all that he sees and all that he is can only feed itself and he is bottomless.
Below that bottom is Gillian (Gretchen Mol) who is climbing back up cold turkey. At least she’s not shooting hypodermics right in the gutter. Roy Philips (Ron Livingston) seems to be a nice guy, but I don’t buy his secret, that he’s a nice guy. He backtracks on all his ambitious bravado but he does kiss Gillian, after at least 24 hours of throwing up the poison, without asking her to take a shot of Listerine.
“William Wilson” was written by David Matthews and Terence Winter and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars